The Sport Enjoyed by 67 Million Americans

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Bowling alleys have become synonymous with good clean fun and healthy competition. However, did you know that when you pick up a bowling ball, you are partaking in a pastime that dates back thousands of years? While it may not look like it, the sport of bowling has a pretty rich and interesting history.

Bowling can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. In the 1930s, British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered primitive artifacts in the tomb of an Egyptian child buried around 5200 B.C. These artifacts included nine pieces of stone and a large stone “ball” which was made to roll through an archway constructed from three pieces of marble.

Another discovery of the ancient Polynesian game of Ulu Maika unearthed a game that consisted of stone pins and balls. In this game, stone balls were rolled at pins 60 feet away, a distance that remains standard in modern bowling.

However, modern bowling began to take its shape in ancient Germany, where bowling at pins was actually done as part of a religious ceremony, not sport. The game eventually traveled through Europe and finally made its way to the United States. One of the earliest mentions of bowling in the U.S. is found in the 1818 short story, “Rip Van Winkle.”

Bowling has evolved significantly since its early beginnings. The sport is now enjoyed by over 67 million people in the U.S. every year with more than 1.2 million competitors certified by the United States Bowling Congress.

Image Credit: Mindscape studio /

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